British cruising family joins sailing volunteers in the Pacific

Jackson family on Pegasus
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The Jackson Family, Mark, Catherine, Mia, 9 and Lachlan 7 (the 'Jackson Four') from Jersey in the Channel Islands, bought Pegasus, their Nautitech 395 catamaran, in Greece and set sail in June of 2010. They timed their departure when Catherine thought she 'still understood the maths the children were doing', but what they are learning now in the Pacific will stay with the Mia and Lachlan for the rest of their lives.

Having sailed the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Pacific, they have now teamed up with the volunteer organisation, Oceans Watch, which works at the rock face of the early effects of the population explosion and climate change.


The organisation seeks to better the island communities that many cruising sailors visit, in that many of them are suffering the effects of brackish water from rising sea levels and depleting fish supplies from over-fishing by wide ranging commercial fishing ships. In partnership with the coastal communities they sail to, they develop marine conservation plans, sustainable livelihood projects and support primary school education.

OceansWatch expedition yacht, Cat Knapp, sailed by Ocean Watch volunteers, is now heading for Port Vila in Vanuatu. Pegasus will join her in the voyage, also hosting two more volunteers.

OceansWatch Cat Knapp stowed and ready to go
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Why have the Jacksons decided on this venture? They say that as they sailed across the Pacific they always wondered about the impact they produced on island communities. As a family, they would like to make a connections with the island communities by helping them to establish sustainable livelihoods.

Volunteers bring their particular skills to the communities they visit. In the Solomon Islands, volunteer Karlee Burgess will work with the locals sharing her permaculture knowledge to help them deal with their annual food shortages and Liz Milward will share her knowledge of health care.

One new project that OceansWatch will be exploring this year is a new technology that will detect and map underground water, which will allow people living on coral atolls to be able to identify fresh water sources more accurately. Rising sea levels are causing increased salination of their atolls fresh water lens.

This technology, along with other sustainable strategies will greatly extend the time humans can live on atolls effected by climate change.

On Fenualoa Island in the Reef Islands, the community have one water tank per five households provided by an NGO for drinking water but still rely on wells for all other water especially during the dry season. The existing wells are increasing in salinity and some are already over WHO recommendations for safe drinking water.

The island will be surveyed and existing wells located and tested for salinity, solids and depth measurements taken. This grid like Electro-Seismic survey will map the aquifers under the atoll. The survey report provided will indicate the best locations for new wells with the least salt water intrusion and will ensure that the best possible long term fresh water resource is available.

OceansWatch is involved in so many positive strands in their mission to help island people that they organisation is sometimes hard to define. For instance, a large package of letters and gifts will also join Cat Knapp in Port Vila. A few days ago, Sophie Bone, OceansWatch education co-ordinator went to Ngunguru primary school in New Zealand with a bag full of surprises for the students.

Pupils from Mater Primary school on Karkar island (Papua New Guinea) had sent them many letters and presents, including bags, necklaces and a pigs tusk. Next week, Sophie will go back to collect the replies which will be taken back to Papua New Guinea on the yacht.

OceansWatch - Ngunguru pupils showing the letters they received from Karkar Island
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It's been four years that OceansWatch has been partnering schools between an 'in need' school in a developing country in the Pacific and a New Zealand school that, thanks to some fundraising, can support its partner.

OceansWatch acts as a go-between in this operation. The money raised in New Zealand is given to the schools in Pacific without this help some students wouldn't be able to afford to go to school. Films and photos are also exchanged and this allows the New Zealand pupils to gain some knowledge of life in another country very different from their own.

To learn more about the Jackson Family on Pegagus http://www.sailblogs.com/member/jacksonfour/!click_here, and to learn more about OceansWatch, http://www.oceanswatch.org!click_here